First slide of 16 hour rule presentation

Given the right skills, resources and opportunities, any young person can attain relevant qualifications, fulfilling their maximum potential.  They can increase their chances of getting a job that will provide them with further training, the opportunity to develop a career and gain higher-level skills or go to university.

The 16 hour rule campaign in which the Foyer Federation had great success in 2005-06

Read the campaign publication; The 16 Hour Rule past its sell by date

Many vulnerable young people, whether they are homeless, living in Foyers or elsewhere, have often, for reasons beyond their control, missed crucial years of schooling. They find themselves lacking the necessary qualifications for sustained employment and then more than often falling further behind.

Eight years ago, the Foyer Federation’s then Chief Executive, Carolyn Hayman, was struck by the sheer number of people she was meeting across the country who were being forced to give up their education due to the limitations posed by the housing benefit regulations, known as the 16 hour rule.

In an attempt to draw attention to the barriers facing young people when trying to access learning and training, the Foyer Federation launched their campaign, Give us a Chance, in November 2005.

What is the 16 hour rule?

The 16-hour rule is a benefit regulation that prevented young people who are 19 or over from studying full time, whilst claiming income support/JobSeekers Allowance and Housing Benefit. Young people who wish to study were compelled to study part time for 16 hours per week or less, thus risking them falling further behind. In some cases, young people studying for A-levels and on their way to University were made to give up their studies and enter a mandatory work placement in order to keep their Housing Benefit and their home.

The Foyer Federation’s first proposal to address this was called the ‘Second Chance EMA’ – the EMA is the Education Maintenance Allowance that was offered to young people to offer them a supplementary income whilst they study full time. Having met no success with this approach, the Foyer Federation changed tactics and involved some of the Foyer residents whose experiences had initially inspired the campaign.

Bringing the issues home to the Minister

The Foyer Federation arranged a meeting with the then Department of Work and Pensions Minister, James Plaskitt MP. Foyer residents were able to articulate their views and experiences, really bringing the message home to the Minister.

James Plaskitt MP was particularly struck by their personal experiences and as a result of the meeting became a champion of this issue. He commented:

Listening to the young people at Foyer gave me a greater understanding of the impact of the 16 hour rule. Their personal experiences will be invaluable as we review this part of the benefit system.

James Plaskitt MP |


Through persistent campaigning, the Foyer Federation were pleased to identify a commitment to reform the rule in the ‘No-One Written Off’ White Paper in late 2008. Paragraph 2.27 of the White Paper committed to ‘extending the age cut-off…for those who qualify for IS (Income Support) and therefore Housing Benefit.’

11 March 2009 marked a milestone as the amendments to the Social Security (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (SI 2009/583) were introduced before Parliament.

The Department of Work and Pensions issued a circular for the attention of all Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit staff which states that young people up to the age of 21 are entitled to benefit whilst studying full time providing the course began before the person reached 19 years.

Do we stop now?

The answer is no. The Foyer Federation is committed to its holistic ethos of provisions being based on ‘stage not age’. Whilst we welcomed the efforts made to reform the regulation, there is still a long way to go, particularly for those young people commencing further education after they turn 19.

Department for Work and Pensions circular – Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Circular